Upsides of looking down
Mick Jones is keen to expose what lies beneath your feet
THERE is so much to see and hear when you visit a nature reserve in the summer, but there may be an aspect you’re missing.
Many plants are still coming into flower, some are already setting seed and you can find rapidly-swelling fruits. On a sunny day there will be clouds of insects, to both fascinate and irritate you! After a little rain there may be an eruption of fungi.
Why is there such a diversity of plants and animals in special places in the Chilterns?
The answer is largely to be found right under your feet. The soil and underlying geology has a great effect on which plants are growing and this, in turn, influences the animals, large and small, you’re likely to see. The shaping of the land in prehistory history and the useses us humans made of it over the last few thousand years make it what we see today.
Commonn plants can give clues about what lies beneath eneath the The 80-million-grass or has happened year-old fossil to the land. For found last year instance, rockrose will not only tell you that chalk is close to the surface, but will also show that a field has been closely grazed for centuries.
Patches of gorse and bracken demonstrate that you’ve moved from chalk to more acid clay.
Soft rushes reveal that a pocket of clay is retaining water. Bluebells indicate an area with fairly constant woodland cover, even if it’s now a field corner, and certain grasses reveal the locations of long-lost farms.
In some places you can get much closer to the hidden underground world through old chalk and clay pits, but animal excavations can be surprisingly revealing.
Last year I found a lovely 80 millionyear-old echinoid, a fossilised sea-urchin, on the spoil heap outside a badgers’ sett. Nearby, I literally stumbled upon an old bank and ditch in the middle of the wood – all that’s left of a field system abandoned 200 years ago.
Join me for a revealing walk looking at ‘What lies beneath’ at BBOWT’s Dancer send Reserve near Wendover on Sunday, August 2.
For details, see www.bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on.